December 2021 – A small but companionable group returned to Kelsey’s in Ellicott City, Md., where we celebrated Jane Austen’s birthday. We were entertained by a group of local actors using Rosina Filippi’s Playing Jane Austen – can you identify Mrs. Elton? It was so wonderful to be together and toast Our Jane!
2021 continued with meetings being held monthly. In January, we delved into “Seeing and Being Seen in Northanger Abbey” with Tim Erwin from the South Nevada Region. Georgian Valentines were the subject in February with Michael Russo and Nancy Rosin from the National Valentine Collectors Association. A crafternoon followed the talk, and several of our members’ own Valentines are in the gallery below. In March, we held our meeting on a Tuesday evening for a rousing game of bingo with “Huzzah!” instead of the usual shout of “Bingo!” In April, we enjoyed a video presentation on English gardens courtesy of American Ancestors by the New England Historic Genealogical Society. Candice Hern joined us for a virtual Q&A session in May after we watched her AGM videos on “Things That Might be Kept in a Reticule.” She was a great guest, and there was interesting discussion and questions. In June, Dan Macey, of the Eastern PA region, helped us enjoy a Virtual Box Hill Picnic. Receipts were shared before the event and members shared pictures of their treats. We welcomed Andrew Och, the First Ladies Man, in July and were regaled with personal stories of the First Ladies. Kim Wilson helped lead us through hosting “One Very Superior Party” worthy of Mrs. Elton in August. For September, we returned to American Ancestors by the New England Historic Genealogical Society with a video on the Adam family architects.
The highlight of the meeting was a presentation by Sarah Walsh and Vicki Lynn Embrey titled “Mrs. Adams and the Authoress: A Fantasia on Two Remarkable Women.” Sarah wrote the short script, which imagined the two women meeting in Heaven’s Library in the year 1818. It was quite clever, informative and entertaining.
The Playhouse Tour was fascinating — what a beautiful theater!! There’s not a bad seat in the house. It was fun to go backstage and down into the prop room (did any one else spy the basket of strawberries on the shelf?) and the costume room. Tea at the Anne Hathaway Tea Room was delightful. The garden was quaint, and inside you felt as if you’d been transported back in time. And the play was just the icing on the cake. The best part … there are seats on the stage for truly brave audience members (including a few of the ladies on our tour). Two girls from the local college who had never read Emma and had never seen any of the adaptations were experiencing Austen for the first time. When Mr. Knightley proposed, one girl turned to the other and mouthed “I knew it!” By the time Mr. Martin proposed to Harriet, they (the girls) were in raptures. Such a treat to see the magic of Austen through fresh eyes.
After the show we were treated to an exclusive talkback with four of the cast members. They answered our questions and explained their process in bringing the characters to life.
Even the bus trip was fun, with trivia, Austen-related Bingo, door prizes and a raffle.
Our featured presenter was the always delightful Dr. Juliette Wells, who gave an illustrated lecture titled “The Hidden History of Austen in Early America.”
Members also had a chance to place donation bids on a one-of-a-kind plush fleece Austen blanket made especially as a fundraiser for this meeting. Joyce was the lucky winner.
The main event was food historian Kimberly Costa’s presentation “From Page to Plate: Food in Jane Austen’s Time.” Ms. Costa’s delightfully entertaining slideshow/talk gave us peek into the Regency kitchen as cooks and hostesses planned and prepared food for a variety of households.
The house tour was a delightful and informative glimpse into the lives of the Ridgely family. Highlights were the bedrooms (restored to various periods), portraits of Governor Ridgely and Eliza Ridgely and, of course, Eliza’s harp. Alas, we couldn’t convince our guide to let us sneak up to the famous cupola.
Dr. Wells specializes in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British literature, with a special focus on Jane Austen. She is the author of Everybody’s Jane: Austen in the Popular Imagination (Bloomsbury Academic, 2011) and the editor of the recently published Emma: 200th-Anniversary Annotated Edition (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition), for which she also penned the introduction.
We enjoyed a tea with scones, sandwiches and pastries at the lovely Royal Sonesta Harbor Court Baltimore on Light Street. And we toasted Jane’s birthday with a rousing chorus of “For She’s a Jolly Good Writer!”
July 2015: Saturday, July 18, broke hot and muggy over the shores of Lake Kittamaqundi in Columbia, Md. But, like an Austen heroine, a little bad weather wasn’t going to stop us from having some fun. We met at Petit Louis Bistro just before noon. The rain took a break for our promenade and group photo at the lake. Then we retired to the restaurant for a lovely French luncheon and our program.
Dr. Ann Wass, a costume historian, presented an illustrated lecture on the latest fashions in 1815 called “New and Fashionable Goods, Suitable to the Present Season.” Dr. Wass walked us through fashions that were popular in both England and France. As the talk progressed, we were able to put together our own fashion albums from copies of historic advertisements.
On the business side, we elected a new Regional Coordinator, Rita Baker-Schmidt, and a new Treasurer, Peggy Maxson.
July 2014: Our Saturday, July 26, meeting gave us a historical glimpse at life in the Royal Navy, the Navy’s role in the Battle of Baltimore and their links to our beloved Miss Austen. The year was both the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mansfield Park and the bicentennial of the bombing of Fort McHenry, and we commemorated both.
The meeting started out at Hull Street Blues Cafe. Named after Isaac Hull, Captain of the frigate USS Constitution and darling of the American fleet, the historic Hull Street Blues was a ship’s chandlery (a store specializing in ship’s supplies) before it was converted to a tavern in 1889.
From there we proceeded down the point to Fort McHenry for an exclusive lecture by one of the park’s historians, Ranger Vince. We were treated to an amazing and in-depth talk on what it was like to be a sailor in the British Navy, Austen personal and literary connections to the Navy, and the role the British Navy played in the Battle of Baltimore. Afterward, many of our members took the opportunity to tour the fort.
December 2013: Our Sunday, December 15, meeting took place in the Formal Lounge in Doyle Hall at Notre Dame of Maryland University and featured mystery author Tracy Kiely. Her books include Murder at Longbourn, Murder on the Bride’s Side, Murder Most Persuasive and Murder Most Austen. Much like her books, Ms. Kiely’s talk was interesting and witty. No wonder she was named a finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark Award.
We had a lovely tea at Goucher College’s Athenaeum, caught the college’s “Pride and Prejudice: A 200-Year Affair” exhibition and even had a peek inside the Alberta and Henry Burke Jane Austen Collection.
The day was an extra special one for JASNA Maryland, because we got to honor one of our longest serving members and then treasurer, Rena Kelly. Rena was surprised with a basket of gifts, a tiara and a proclamation from the Mayor of the City of Baltimore announcing December 1, 2012, to be “Rena Kelly Day”! We also got to hear a brief history of Rena’s life story as written by her son, Eugene.
Lunch and festivities took place in the Hamptons Dinning Room at the Royal Sonesta Harbor Court in Baltimore.
Our group was also treated to a pre-show panel titled “Kitty and Lydia: Mischief and Merriment,” moderated by Polly Bart. The discussion included JASNA members Mark Turner and Karen Hornig as well as the actresses portraying Kitty and Lydia in the show, Jana Stambaugh and Rachael Jacobs.